Tunisia arrests head of presidential guard, others

A tank guards the Mohamed avenue in Tunis, Saturday, Jan. 15, 2011. Tunisia swore in a new interim president on Saturday the second change of power in this North African nation in less than 24 hours and grappled with looting, deadly fires and widespread unrest after protests forced its longtime leader to flee. (AP Photo/Hedi Ben Salem)

TUNIS, Tunisia, Jan 16 (KATAKAMI.COM / AP) – Tunisian police arrested the head of the presidential guard Sunday and dozens of others suspected in drive-by shootings, trying to restore calm to the North African nation after the historic ouster of its longtime strongman.

Tunisians and observers worldwide were looking for signs about which way the country would turn as a new leadership sought to tamp down the looting, arson attacks and random violence since autocratic President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was driven from power Friday.

Police arrested the head of Ben Ali’s presidential guard, Ali Seriati, and several colleagues over accusations they had plotted against state security, the state news agency TAP reported Sunday. Other details were not immediately available, but security agents had often fired on unarmed protesters in the last month.

More than 50 people have been arrested since Saturday on suspicion of using ambulances, rental cars and civil protection vehicles for random shootings, a police official told The Associated Press. A crowd of 200 in central Tunis cheered Sunday as police drove away one ambulance and arrested its driver.

“Criminals are using ambulances to fire on people,” a police official in charge of security told the AP, showing his badge but declining to give his name.

Dozens of people have died in a month of clashes between police and protesters angry about the repression and corruption during Ben Ali’s rule — unrest that ultimately marked the end of his 23-year regime.

A soldier fired shots in the air Sunday near Tunis’ main train station — which had been turned into a blackened carcass — to warn that a gathering of more than three people is banned under the state of emergency law.

Police insisted that gunfire heard overnight was only the firing of warning shots. One soldier stationed near the train station said, “We are with the Tunisians, we are all brothers.”

A well-known human rights advocate returned home to the embattled — but in many ways, hopeful — country in the midst of an unprecendented power shift for the Arab world. Souhayr Belhassen, president of the International Federation of Human Rights, arrived at Tunis’ airport and said her long-repressed countrymen appear poised for unprecedented freedoms.

AP/Christophe Ena

A day of violence Saturday cast doubt on hopes for a smooth transition to a post-Ben Ali era: Assailants attacked police near the Interior Ministry, and looting and score-settling attacks besieged wealthy neighborhoods, department stores and shops.

Businesses owned by Ben Ali’s family were major targets of looters. The family of the ex-president’s wife, Leila Trabelsi, has financial interests in wide-ranging sectors from banking to car dealerships. A branch of the Zeitouna bank in Tunis founded by Ben Ali’s son-in-law was torched, as were vehicles made by Kia, Fiat and Porsche — brands distributed in Tunisia by members of the ruling family.

Tunisians are especially overjoyed at the prospect of life without Ben Ali’s wife and her family. U.S. diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks discussed the high levels of nepotism and corruption displayed by her clan.

Tunisian media reported one brother-in-law of the president, Imed Trabelsi, was attacked by an angry mob at Tunis airport and died from his injuries. The reports could not be immediately confirmed.

Fouad Mebazaa, the former head of parliament’s lower house, was named interim president on Saturday and quickly ordered the creation of a national unity government that would include longtime opponents of Ben Ali. Elections must be held in 60 days.

“We can start to hope,” said a founder of the main opposition party, the Progressive Democratic Party, Nejib Chebbi. The question now, he said, is whether a new government will be pluralistic or again dominated by Ben Ali’s ruling RCD party. “If the RCD is dominant, we’re not out of the woods.”

The 74-year-old Ben Ali and some family members fled to Saudi Arabia. Other relatives were in France, but authorities said they were not welcome to remain.

Tunis’ airport reopened Saturday but a state of emergency continued. Thousands of tourists were being evacuated Sunday from the Mediterranean nation, whose wide beaches, deserts and ancient ruins are a strong draw for Europeans seeking relief from winter.

Street violence took a new form Saturday with roving gangs sacking homes in at least one wealthy neighborhood and residents, armed with golf clubs, forming self-styled vigilante committees.

Others worried about food shortages.

“This all happened in three days. Maybe tomorrow we can’t eat,” said Mohsen Yacoubi.

A Paris-based photojournalist, Lucas Mebrouk von Zabiensky, 32, of the EPA photo agency, died Sunday after being hit Friday in the face by a tear gas canister.

The downfall of Ben Ali, who had taken power in a bloodless coup in 1987, delivered a warning to other autocratic leaders in the Arab world.

The improved quality of life for many failed to keep up with the increased limits on civil rights like freedom of expression. The jobless rate is officially 14 percent, but is thought to be far higher among young who make up more than half of its 10 million people.

The self-immolation, and eventual death, of a 26-year-old university graduate selling fruits in central Tunisia last month triggered a series of protests that, relayed by social media like Facebook, spun into general anger against the regime. (*)

Israeli PM: Tunisia Reflects Regional Instability

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) attends the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem January 16, 2011. REUTERS/Sebastian Scheiner/Pool


Jerusalem, Jan 16 (KATAKAMI / Vosizneias.COM) – Israel’s Prime Minister says the unrest in Tunisia over the weekend shows why Israel must be cautious as it pursues peace with the Palestinians.

Benjamin Netanyahu told his Cabinet on Sunday that the violence that followed the ouster of Tunisia’s longtime president illustrated the widespread instability plaguing the region.

He also says it underscores the need for strong security arrangements in any future peace deal with the Palestinians.
Netanyahu says it’s not enough to “close our eyes” and sign a peace agreement. (*)

Prime Minister Netanyahu's Remarks at the Start of the Weekly Cabinet Meeting

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem January 16, 2011. REUTERS/Sebastian Scheiner/Pool


Jan 16, 2011 (KATAKAMI / PRIME MINISTER’S OFFICE) — Following are Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s remarks at the start of the weekly Cabinet meeting today:

“I would like to direct your attention to the book of Government working plans.  It seems to me that this is the first time that the Government has put its goals, the plans of every ministry, in a book.  The only way to get anywhere is to know where you are going.  Here, we are doing something that involves a certain degree of daring because we are writing, in the most measurable way possible, what we want to achieve in every ministry.  I will request that the ministries present their working plans and goals to us.  I have done so in my various Government posts, especially as Finance Minister.  We measure the successes in relation to the goals.  I am pleased to see this attitude spread to other ministries, including Transportation, Education, Communications, etc., and to every course of action that we decide upon.  We want to see clear results; therefore, the Government sets goals and – publicly and transparently – measures their achievement.  I think that this is a change of attitude regarding the work ethic at the ministries.  I hope that this is the start of a long tradition.

One of our goals is to achieve peace and security with our neighbors in the region.  The region in which we live is unstable.  Everyone sees this today.  We see this at several points throughout the Middle East.  I would say that there is a great island of instability in the geographic expanse in which we live.  We hope that stability will be restored.  We hope that there will be quiet and security.  We are monitoring developments.  If there is one conclusion, one clear lesson that arises from all that we see around us, it is that we need to lay the foundations of security in any agreement that we make.  We cannot simply say ‘We are signing a peace agreement’, close our eyes and say ‘We did it’ because we do not know with any clarity that the peace will indeed be honored.  We would increase any agreement’s chances of being honored by including within it stable and solid security arrangements.

But there is another reason why we insist on peace agreements with a very strong security infrastructure and this is because peace can unravel.  It could be that there are regime, and other, changes that may not be expected today, but which could happen tomorrow.  Therefore, this Government’s policy is to bind peace and security together because security ensures peace and protects the state of Israel should it unravel.

Today, we submit for Cabinet approval the appointment of Yohanan Danino as the next Inspector-General of the Israel Police.  Yohanan has the vast experience of 28 years of excellent service in the Israel Police.  He is creative; he is a leader.  I think that he could move the Israel Police forward in enforcing the rule of law, fighting crime and strengthening Israelis’ personal security.  He will create not just a sense of security, but a more secure reality with everything regarding the Israel Police.

Today, we will discuss the State of Israel’s membership in UN WOMEN.  I would like to commend Deputy Minister Gila Gamliel, who will present the issue; she is also leading it.  We are one of the leading countries in the world in advancing the status of women.  In recent weeks, we passed a series of laws increasing the representation of women in public companies, encouraging the employment of mothers, etc.  I note this because in our region there is at least one country in which women are stoned and there is a general problem of women’s rights, of human rights in general and those of minorities in particular; not in the State of Israel.  Whoever talks about us as an exceptional country is right, we are very exceptional in this regard.  We are also an island of stability, rights and progress that others could learn from.” (*)


Tunisia Moves to Form New Coalition Government

Parliamentary Speaker Fouad Mebazza was sworn in as interim president

Jan 16 (KATAKAMI.COM /VOA) — Tunisia’s acting leadership moved Sunday to form a coalition government, after the ouster last week of former strongman Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, who ruled for 23-years.

Parliamentary Speaker Fouad Mebazza was sworn in as interim president Saturday, a day after President Ben Ali fled to Saudi Arabia.

Mr. Mebazza said he had asked the country’s prime minister to form a unity government.

The country’s constitutional council said new presidential elections should be held within 60 days.

There were reports of gunfire in Tunis Saturday, as police and army tanks patrolled city streets still littered with debris from overnight riots and looting.  But there was no sign of new violence Sunday.

Mr. Ben Ali fled the country following weeks of street demonstrations and rioting fueled by anger over a lack of jobs and official corruption.  He had served as Tunisia’s president for the past 23 years.

Activists in Egypt cheered Mr. Ben Ali’s ouster and said they hope the rebellion will inspire a similar movement challenging Egypt’s long-serving president, Hosni Mubarak.

The Egyptian government Saturday affirmed Egypt’s support for “the choices of the Tunisian people.”  The foreign ministry issued a statement saying Egypt is confident Tunisians will not allow the country to descend into chaos.

The Cairo-based Arab League issued its own a statement urging Tunisia’s political forces to show unity in order to keep the peace.

The African Union Peace and Security Council says it recognizes Parliamentary Speaker Mebazza as Tunisia’s interim leader.

And in France, Tunisia’s former colonial master, President Nicolas Sarkozy offered to support Tunisia’s democratic process.  (*)

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev congratulates Kamaz truck team with Dakar rally victory

Vladimir Chagin

(KATAKAMI.COM / RIA NOVOSTI) — Russia’s President Dmitry Medvedev congratulated on Sunday the Russian Kamaz truck team with the victory in the 2011 Dakar Rally in South America.

“I want to congratulate the Russian Kamaz-master team and Vladimir Chagin with a brilliant victory in the Dakar Rally. Well done!” Medvedev said in his Twitter account.

The 2011 Dakar Rally came to an end in Argentina on Saturday. The Russian Kamaz truck team became the winner of the rally’s truck class, winning the event for the tenth time.

Russia’s Vladimir Chagin, piloting a Kamaz truck, became seven-time champion of the 2011 Dakar Rally’s truck class. He won eight of the 13 stages of the rally. Chagin was followed by another three Kamaz truck pilots, Firdaus Kabirov, Eduard Nikolayev and Ilgizar Mardeyev.

The Dakar 2011 Rally, originally called Paris-Dakar, took place in South America for the third consecutive year and ran until January 16.

67 trucks, 170 motorcycles and 30 quad bikes took part in the rally.

The route of the rally spanned the territories of Argentina and Chile; however only the start and the finish of Dakar 2011 was held in Argentina. (*)

Russia's Medvedev to visit Jordan, Palestinian Territory next week – Kremlin

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev














Moscow, Jan 16 (KATAKAMI.COM / RIA NOVOSTI / KREMLIN.RU) — Russian President Dmitry Medvedev will make an official visit to Jordan and the Palestinian Territory on January 18-19, the Kremlin press service announced on Saturday.

Medvedev earlier had plans of visiting Israel on his two-day visit, however that trip was canceled due to Israeli Foreign Ministry employees calling a strike in order to get salary increases.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said earlier this week that Israeli officials were categorically against entertaining any foreign guests during the strike.

According to some sources, Medvedev will visit Jericho in the West Bank to open a Russian museum. (*)

Photo : Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu Meets with Mitt Romney

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thursday morning (Jan 13, 2011) at his Jerusalem residence, met with former Massachusetts Governor and US presidential candidate Mitt Romney. The two men discussed a series of issues, including advancing the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians, which will be based on security, and the challenge to the international community posed by the Iranian nuclear program (Photo : PMO.GOV.IL/PMOEng)

Doctors replace Giffords' breathing tube

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords

TUCSON, Ariz, Jan 15 (KATAKAMI.COM / AP)  – Doctors on Saturday removed Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’breathing tube and could soon know if she can speak.

Giffords had an operation Saturday to replace the breathing tube with a tracheotomy tube in her windpipe. That allows her to breathe better and frees her from the ventilator.

Though Giffords had been breathing on her own since she was shot in the head Jan. 8, doctors had left the breathing tube in as a precaution. A feeding tube was also put in to provide nutrition. Those procedures are not out of the ordinary for brain-injured patients.

Giffords’ doctors have said they should be able to evaluate her ability to speak once the breathing tube is out.

Giffords, who was wounded in last weekend’s attack that killed six people, remains in critical condition at University Medical Center.

“Her recovery continues as planned,” the hospital said in a statement.

Her husband, astronaut Mark Kelly, has remained by her bedside.

One patient was discharged Saturday while two others remain in good condition. (*)

Boehner Ends Retreat With Warning About Spending ‘Illness’

Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) salutes colleagues before receiving the Speaker's gavel from outgoing Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi following his election in the House chamber January 5, 2011 in Washington, DC. The 112th U.S. Congress was sworn-in today, with Republican legislators taking control of the House of Representatives and expected to begin attempts to dismantle portions of U.S. President Barack Obamaï¿?ï¿?ï¿?s legislative agenda. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

BALTIMORE, January 15  (KATAKAMI.COM / THE CAUCUS) — House Speaker John A. Boehner closed down the Republican retreat here Saturday with a final declaration that the new House majority is serious about reducing federal spending.

“Washington has an illness,” Mr. Boehner said, according to remarks distributed by his office. “The illness is spending. The debt is a symptom of that illness. The American people want it cured.

“President Obama and Congressional Democrats have been on a job-destroying spending spree that has left us with nothing but historic unemployment and the most debt in U.S. history. If they want us to help pay their bills, they are going to have to start cutting up their credit cards.”

The reference to help with paying bills was a nod to the looming vote on increasing the federal debt limit. The Republican leadership used the retreat to prepare lawmakers for the fact that they will be called on to approve an increase in federal borrowing power, a vote many find objectionable. However, Republicans made it clear at the three-day meeting that they intend to demand substantial spending as their price for the debt limit hike.

It was notable that in his remarks, Mr. Boehner referred to “job-destroying spending” rather than the job-killing phraseology that Republicans have typically favored. Some Democrats have suggested that term is inappropriate in the wake of the shootings in Tucson.

Before Republicans boarded their buses to return to Washington, Reince Preibus, the newly elected chairman of the Republican National Committee, mingled with the lawmakers.   (*)


%d bloggers like this: